Louisiana Mandates The Ten Commandments In Classrooms

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Louisiana, classroom, Ten Commandments

by Sharelle Burt

All content must be available by the beginning of 2025 and will be financed through donations – no state funds will be used to implement the mandate.

Republican Governor Jeff Landry signed a bill requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom in Louisiana, making Louisiana the first state to do so.

The GOP-drafted bill was signed into law on June 19 – the federal holiday Juneteenth – and requires all public classrooms from kindergarten to state-funded universities to have a billboard with the Ten Commandments in “large, legible font.” Landry called the measure “respect for the rule of law.”

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you have to start with the original lawgiver, Moses, who received the commandments from God,” he said.

Students, teachers and staff must view the posters along with a four-paragraph “context statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “have been an important part of the American public education system for nearly three centuries.”

All content must be available by the beginning of 2025 and will be financed through donations – no state funds will be used to implement the mandate.

Groups that support religious freedom and civil rights are pushing back against this development. According to Fox 8 Live, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Freedom from Religion Foundation have released a joint statement outlining their plans to file a joint lawsuit against the new law. “We are preparing a lawsuit against HB 71. The law violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional,” the statement said.

“The First Amendment promises that we can all choose for ourselves what religious beliefs we hold and practice, if any, without pressure from government. Politicians have no right to impose their preferred religious doctrine on students and families in public schools.”

The groups further stressed that “the government should not take sides in this theological debate.”

“Even among those who believe in a particular version of the Ten Commandments, the specific text they adhere to may vary according to religious denomination or tradition,” the joint statement said.

Supporters of the law, however, claim that the move is not for religious reasons, but rather because of the historical significance of the Ten Commandments. The law's language describes the Ten Commandments as “fundamental documents of our state and national government.” Under the law, schools are permitted – but not required – to display the Mayflower Treaty, the Declaration of Independence and the Northwest Ordinance.

This is not the first state to face disputes over religious elements in education. In 1980, Kentucky lost a battle in the U.S. Supreme Court after it declared a similar law unconstitutional, violating the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress “shall make no law establishing a State religion.” The Supreme Court found that the law served no secular purpose, but a purely religious one.

This mandate joins a long list of laws passed under conservative leadership, and similar bills have been proposed in other states, including Texas, Oklahoma and Utah.

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